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DFL Party Announces Humphrey Mondale Award Winners


During this year’s Ninth Annual Humphrey Mondale Dinner, the DFL Party will honor six Minnesotans with awards for their important contributions to the DFL Party and Minnesota politics. The six awards, Mondale, Humphrey, Wellstone, Freeman, Growe & Munger, are named after historic DFL leaders and presented to those who embody their values and do justice to their legacy.

“I’m proud to be celebrating six outstanding leaders for their contributions to the greater good of Minnesota during this year’s Humphrey Mondale Dinner,” said DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin. “The history of the DFL Party is replete with people who stepped up and made invaluable contributions to our state by dint of hard work, courage, and a willingness to face down long odds in the pursuit of a better future. This year’s award winners stand squarely within that proud DFL Party tradition and remind all of us engaged in Minnesota politics why we do what we do: to improve people’s lives.”

The Hubert H. Humphrey Award for Dedication and Leadership to the Minnesota DFL:

Chris Thorp – Chair of the DFL State Constitution and ByLaws Committee

As Chair of the DFL State Constitution and ByLaws Committee, Chris Thorp has worked tremendously hard, often behind the scenes, to power the DFL Party, guide us forward during difficult times, and ensure our Party’s foundational documents reflect our progressive spirit. Those who know Chris universally attest to his work ethic, leadership ability, and fairness. Grassroots democracy is at the core of the DFL Party, from our caucuses and conventions to our endorsement process to our and living Constitution. Chris Thorp has done more than almost anybody to ensure the DFL Party’s grassroots democracy that we all cherish remains vibrant and strong.

The Joan and Walter Mondale Award for Public Service:

Dick Cohen – Minnesota State Senator (District 64)

Senator Dick Cohen was first elected to the Minnesota State Senate in 1987 and had previously served the people of Minnesota in the State House of Representatives starting in 1977. Throughout his time in the Minnesota legislature, Senator Cohen was known for his commitment to the arts and in 2009 was appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Senator Cohen also chaired the Senate Finance Committee, where he helped craft budgets that invested in improving the lives of the people of Minnesota. Minnesota is the greatest state in the nation in large part because we have a robust government that lifts up Minnesotans everywhere, and Senator Cohen played an invaluable role in bringing that about. We recognize Dick Cohen’s influential work as a legislator and thank him for his tremendous dedication to public service.

The Paul D. Wellstone Award for Lifetime Commitment to Organized Labor:

Denise Specht – President of Education Minnesota

Minnesota’s strong public schools are the pride of communities across our state, and Denise Specht has been instrumental in fighting for and lifting up classrooms, teachers, and students. Denise Specht was first elected to be President of Education Minnesota in 2013. A fourth-generation educator and former teacher, Specht has been able to use her personal experience to successfully champion the needs of the youngest Minnesotans and their teachers. Specht’s dedication to education goes beyond Minnesota, as she currently serves as the Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers. Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the reckless reopening push from Republican politicians, Specht has been an invaluable advocate for the health and safety of students and teachers. In all her endeavors, Denise Specht has proven to be a selfless leader and committed to protecting our educators and education system.

The Orville L. Freeman Award for Distinguished Service to Greater Minnesota and Agricultural Issues:

Tim Velde – Member of the Board of Directors of Minnesota Valley Cooperative Light & Power

As a 4th generation farmer, Velde has been a tremendous voice for farmers across Greater Minnesota. Velde has used his experience to influence public policy on behalf of Minnesota farmers, consult with and advise leading politicians on key agricultural issues, and change laws to better the lives of communities across Greater Minnesota. Velde has advised leaders like Senator Tina Smith, Representative Collin Peterson, and Vice Presidents Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey. Velde has also been a leading voice in pushing back against policies that hurt Greater Minnesota, such as Donald Trump’s trade war. Tim Velde’s advice, advocacy, and activism have made a tremendous difference in the lives of people across Greater Minnesota.

The Joan Growe Award for Distinguished Commitment to Expanding Access to Democracy and Justice in Minnesota:

Karen Diver – Director of Business Development for the Native American Advancement Initiatives

Karen Diver first got involved with politics advocating for a community center with her youth group in Columbus, Ohio. From there, Diver realized that representation mattered in politics and her passion for activism was sparked. That respect for the power of representation has driven Diver to work hard to amplify the voices of people that have gone unheard for too long in our politics. Diver has been a tremendous advocate for tribal communities in particular, with a focus on ensuring that all levels of our government recognize that tribal citizens are their constituents too and act accordingly. Near the end of President Barack Obama’s term, she was appointed as Special Assistant for Native American Affairs. In this role Diver worked with 27 federal agencies, legislatures, and 574 tribal nations. In her current role as Director of Business Development for the Native American Advancement Initiatives, Diver supports the achievement, sustainability, and expansion of Native American advancement, as well as recruitment and retention, at the University of Arizona.

The Willard Munger Award for Distinguished Environmental Stewardship:

Veda Kanitz – Chair of the DFL Party Environmental Caucus

Veda Kanitz currently serves as the Chair of the DFL Party Environmental Caucus and has a long history of work and advocacy as part of other environmental groups in Minnesota. Kanitz has long recognized the numerous ways in which environmental issues impact other areas important to DFLers, like eliminating hunger. As an educator, Kanitz’s work to raise awareness and improve people’s understanding of the need to respect our natural environment and resources has been exemplary. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented many of us with challenging circumstances, and Kanitz has done a great job of moving the work of the Environmental Caucus online without missing a beat. Current and future generations of Minnesotans owe Kanitz a debt of gratitude for all she has done to protect and preserve our environment, our climate, and our planet.